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Aces Without Wings

By Lew Martin

The C.O. of the Twenty-seventh Attack Squadron knew his guns and planes—and wouldn't take orders from a Medico!

MAJOR "Hank" Rickey, Commanding Officer of the Twenty-seventh Attack Squadron, U.S.A.A.F., located on the outskirts of Yungning, China, mopped his glistening face with a sheet-sized bandanna and leaned back in his desk chair.

"I've been around, and plenty," he grunted, "but this heat tops anything and everything. Man, it's hot enough to melt the hub right off the prop boss!"

Captain Smart, who was adjutant, best friend and rear gunner for Rickey, looked up from a mess of papers with a grin.

"Hot?" he echoed. "What are you going to do when summer comes, Hank? And speaking of summer, have you thought any more about that hinted offer of that job at G.H.Q. with colonel's rank and pay? You could do with a nice vacation, Hank."

Rickey's brows came together to form a solid black line, and there were tiny specks of fire in his steel gray eyes.

"Do I catch a note of eagerness to get rid of me?" he demanded. "A desk job at G.H.Q., huh? Not in a million years, my boy. Not while there's a front line and Japs on the other side of it."

"There'll be a front line for quite a while to come yet, Hank," Smart murmured. "And you've been pushing it pretty hard. Not that you aren't as good as you ever were, but—"

"But—nuts!" Rickey snapped. "When I figure that I'm no longer any good, then I'll quit. I cut my eyeteeth on an airplane. I learned to smoke in one. And I learned to drink in one. Don't worry! I know what I can do and what I can't do. So change the subject!"

"Okay," said Smart with a faint grin. He tapped a paper he held in his hands. "We're getting a new medico. Flight Surgeons, they call them now."

"A new one?" Rickey echoed sharply. "What's wrong with Doc Withers? He's been out here in China for ten years. Knows this country, and what you can catch from it like a book. That's official?"

"Signed, sealed and all the rest of it," Smart replied with a nod. "A Lieutenant Digger—G.H.Q. says we can expect him today."

"Digger, huh?" Rickey growled. "Nice name for an undertaker. Okay, he can arrive. But if he's got a lot of new and fancy ideas about pink pills and castor oil—"

RICKEY let the rest slide, emphasized it with a curt nod of his close-cropped head. Smart grinned and felt a little sorry for Lieutenant Digger, whoever he was. Major Rickey was one of the old school who had been able to step right into the new school and keep pace with the best of them.

He knew his airplanes and guns like nobody's business. He had proved that in the Philippines and in Java. He was continuing to prove it as C.O. of a squadron on the China Front. He was good, all right, but there was one thing he couldn't take. As he termed it—"This new tangled fuss a...

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